Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): Suburbanizing the city? Political heavyweights? Or twin mediocrity?

I remember once being in the now-former Borders Books store at Diversey, Clark and Broadway when I overheard what appeared to be a rural couple approach a sales clerk and ask if there was a Wal-mart store anywhere nearby.


That clerk explained to the couple that Wal-mart wasn’t exactly the kind of business that located in such a community as the Lakeview neighborhood. The tone of his voice made it clear he held the couple in some sort of contempt for even thinking of shopping at a Wal-mart.


I COULDN’T HELP but think of that clerk (whom I don’t believe I have ever seen or heard from since that moment) when I stumbled across the press release Gov. Pat Quinn put out on Monday – one that boasted of something that Quinn wants to think is a major business accomplishment during his administration.


Chicago, the city proper, is getting its first Olive Garden restaurant!


Officials say the restaurant on Addison Street will employ 170 people in all. Those new jobs are among 13,800 new private sector jobs created across all of Illinois during the month of August.


What would that clerk think of the concept of an Olive Garden – mass produced Italian food for those people who claim they like Italian, except for the garlic – being located within the city limits?


THIS COMMENTARY IS not about to turn into a rant about generic businesses being located in Chicago. I’m not about to claim the city is a bastion of sophistication.


I’m sure there are many city residents who would patronize an Olive Garden if it was located near their homes. It’s not the kind of place they’re going to make a lengthy trip for.


Yet the idea of boasting about this particular business accomplishment. It makes me wonder what’s next – will Quinn get all worked up at the thought of a Steak ‘n’ Shake being located within the city? Or maybe an International House of Pancakes winding up in Chicago?


Small businesses might well be an important part of our local and regional economy. But it takes a lot of them to create benefits that are noticeable to the masses.


POLITICAL REINFORCEMENTS: Gov. Pat Quinn is going to get the reinforcements to bolster his campaign during the next week-and-a-half.


Both President Barack and first lady Michelle Obama will be in Chicago at events on his behalf. And one-time suburban Park Ridge native Hillary Rodham Clinton will be in Chicago to tell people why they should get off their keisters and cast ballots for Quinn.


That’s some pretty heavy-duty political power to be able to wield. When combined with the fact that Republican opponent Bruce Rauner isn’t the kind of guy who inspires people to vote for him (GOP backers are voting against Quinn, by and large, the incumbent governor is looking like he’d better win come Nov. 4.


For if he can’t turn out the vote in Illinois, particularly the urban parts of the state, in strong enough numbers, he’s got no one to blame really but himself.


73-89 SQUARED: The professional baseball season is over in Chicago. Both the White Sox and Cubs finished with identical won-loss records that say they improved from being absolutely dreadful last year (99 White Sox losses compared to 96 for the Cubs) to being mediocre in ’14.


It has some wondering if the improvement will continue to the point where we might have dual pennant races within a couple of years. I’m not rushing to any judgment. Serious contention is a big leap from the mediocrity we saw this past season.


So while I joke about that upcoming all-Chicago World Series, I realize there is much development (and many quirks that must break just so) for that to become a reality – and it may never occur.


So now we count down to 2015, and the possibility of Jose Abreu improving on his 36-home run performance – more home runs than any other White Sox rookie (and good enough for third best in the American League).



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